The Roman Catholic Church has gone to some trouble to paint the sex-cult aspect of its organization as a problem with American culture. But that is really just blaming the media — it was mostly newspapers that brought that story to the public, and the United States has the greatest concentration of newspapers in the world. The focus of the problem is, in fact, the Roman Catholic Church itself, and it is a pervasive problem that goes right to the core of the church and what it says it stands for.
The root of the problem with the Roman Catholic Church is found in the ugly, gross inconsistencies in the moral pronouncements it makes about sex. It is easy to see the basic honor and respect for humanity that is behind the church’s statements about almost everything else, even when you disagree with its moral positions. It is just as easy to see the energy of fear behind the church’s statements around the subject of sex. These statements contain an energy that is repulsive even when you agree with the substance of the statements, and this energy is the basis of the problems the Roman Catholic Church is facing.
To cite the most extreme current example, it is because of the energy of sexual fear that the Roman Catholic Church’s recent statements on genocide lack the credibility to stand on their own. Despite the strong moral basis for any statement against acts of genocide, the statements from Rome stand up only because they are a part of a chorus of people saying the same thing. Most of us would not immediately think of the link between genocide and sex, but the Roman Catholic Church has spoken so vividly of birth control as a supposed means of genocide over the years that genocide and sex are now inextricably linked in anything it says about either. The pope now cannot utter the word “genocide” without speaking out of the same energy of sexual fear that has caused so much suffering in and around the church he heads.
The problem with moral pronouncements made out of the energy of sexual fear is that morality does not come out of fear. Morality, which is about treating people well, can only come out of the energy of peace. Yet sex, the focal point of this energy of fear within the Roman Catholic Church, touches everything the church does. To begin with, this is an organization run exclusively by men (a sexual distinction) who are abstinent (another sexual distinction), and obviously, the focus on sex does not stop there.
How far does the obsession with sex in Rome go? The pope formally considered excommunicating U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi for not being ardent enough in her opposition to abortion. The pope acted after a Catholic political action committee in the United States requested Pelosi’s excommunication. The pope took the request seriously enough to actually meet with Pelosi this week. After the meeting, the pope apparently decided not to excommunicate Pelosi, but was upset enough to issue a stinging statement about U.S. abortion law. To many Catholics, this reaction doubtless makes sense, but to the rest of the world, it makes no sense at all. When a religious leader has the opportunity to meet with one of the world’s more powerful political leaders and chooses not to focus on ways the world’s problems might be solved, but instead on an imagined slight on something related to the politics of sex that from an outsider’s perspective has hardly anything to do with anything, what is the world supposed to think?
Meanwhile, the pattern of sex and violence goes on. The Independent yesterday profiled a book by a former nun who had been the head of a college in the south of India. The book outlines a pervasive culture of sexual misconduct, violence, and intimidation among bishops, priests, and nuns there. According to the author, “mental torture” and inappropriate psychiatric treatment had become routine in the convent she belonged to, leading, she thinks, to a string of suicides among nuns. Eventually, the author says, threats to kidnap and drug her became serious enough that she was forced to resign her position and flee.
It is a story that even those familiar with the sexual perversions of the Roman Catholic Church in the United States might find shocking, yet the Roman Catholic Church sees the book in a different light. A church spokesman Thursday night said the church is familiar with the problems described in the book, and sees them as “trivialities.”
The world is waiting for the Roman Catholic Church to leave its sex-cult side behind and become a force for good again. It only needs to return to the basic integrity and respect for the human condition that is behind most of its thinking and teaching. The structure of the church makes this a challenge, but still, sooner or later, someone in the church will find a way to turn the tide. But it appears that this is a change that will have to come from outside the church’s current leadership.